By Francis Slakey
Francis Slakey is the Upjohn Lecturer on Physics and Public Policy at Georgetown University. He is also the founder and executive director of the Georgetown University Energy Prize (GUEP).
America’s Energy Problem
As a nation, we have yet to fully tap into the enormous potential that energy efficiency offers. By decreasing energy use, we get more from existing resources, support increased resource productivity and economic growth, and enable consumers to save money. Together, these elements hold tremendous power and promise for national energy security and independence, making a compelling case for giving this issue more of our attention.
Among the 12 largest economies in the world, America ranks ninth in terms of overall energy efficiency and fourth in energy efficiency of buildings. More than half of the total energy produced in the U.S. is wasted due to inefficiencies. And despite numerous local, state, and national initiatives, incentives, and tax breaks, the adoption rate for energy efficiency programs remains low.
Georgetown University, one of the world’s leading academic and research institutions, is paving the way to address these challenges by launching the Georgetown University Energy Prize. This $5 million competition is designed to spark the creativity of residents and local leaders—just like you—in order to develop major new ideas that will lead towards greater, sustained energy efficiency in our communities. Only one community will win the $5 million, but everyone who participates will benefit.
At the National League of Cities’ Summer Forum on June 29, the Georgetown University Energy Prize took its first steps to publicly introduce the prize. Although the competition does not officially begin until early 2014, a formal Letter of Intent phase is now open and available online. It’s important to note that competing communities who sign up early will gain additional access to resources and initial feedback from the prize team. U.S. communities with populations between 5,000 and 250,000 residents may enter the competition.
In Competition, Everyone Benefits
Prize competitions are powerful motivators. They inspire and give people a reason to come up with innovative solutions for problems that affect us all—like energy. By calling on all parties—community members, local government, and utilities—to work together to reduce per capita energy use in a substantial and lasting way, the Georgetown University Energy Prize is serving as a catalyst for local partnership building. The competition provides a unique platform of extensive financial opportunities, educational, and technical resources for competing communities including: one-on-one technical assistance, annual workshops, case studies showcasing energy efficiency successes in other communities, tips for household energy conservation, opportunities to apply for seed grants, and direct engagement with federal policymakers in Washington, D.C.
Competing communities will also receive significant communications support in promoting their progress updates and success stories to local and national media. In doing so, community leaders will gain greater national visibility for their participation in the competition, thereby raising their city’s profile with the potential to encourage other municipalities to take steps towards increased energy efficiency.
To find out if you live in one of the 8,892 U.S. communities eligible to compete, and to learn how the Georgetown University Energy Prize can help your community showcase its leadership, ingenuity, and commitment to improving energy efficiency, please visit www.guep.org. For regular updates on the Georgetown University Energy Prize, follow the competition on Twitter at @GUEnergyPrize.